Tips for start-ups

Starting up a tech company is no easy feat.

Dr.Jay JootarThis requires skills that take most of one’s lifetime to master. They cannot be learned by reading an article. In any case, here are some basic tips to help reduce the chance of failure for someone who decides to start up a tech company in Thailand or elsewhere for the first time.

1 Think more about the market, not just the product

Two common mistakes startups make are 1) pick a product market that is too crowded, therefore very competitive; 2) pick a product that has too little or no market at all. A lot of start-ups focus too much on building products and too little on figuring out who and how to sell it. Spend a lot of time finding out more about the market, the competitors, the potential customers, and avoid making these obvious mistakes.

2 Design products that are tough to copy

Hopefully, one day Thailand will have a better environment for people who create intellectual property. But until that day comes, it might be wiser to pick products that are inherently difficult to copy by pirates or competitors.

If you are into smart-phone apps, try having the features distributed between the app itself and the back end. In fact, locate most core features in the back end if you can. This way, the guts of your services cannot be easily copied like the front-end apps. If you are into packaged application, see if you can offer an online Web-based version of your software or see if you can create a server appliance with all your software tightly packaged inside.

3 Target regional market from day one

Thailand is a good place to live, eat and play. But it is too small a market for tech start-ups. Think of a regional market from day one. Be ambitious. Create a network of partners who can help you expand to other countries. Be international. Have an online presence that attracts potential customers from other countries. That means English website at the very least.

4 Think big, execute small

As a tech start-up, you should think big in terms of the end goals of what your company will become. That’s what attracts customers, partners, and investors to your camp. On the other hand, the life of a tech start-up is rife with uncertainty. It is imperative to validate your vision with realities in an iterative fashion. Develop an increment of your product, get feedback from outside, adjust your direction, and repeat. This ensures that you are on the right track. Otherwise, you might risk end up in no-man’s land as far as the market goes.

5 Don’t wait for investors, get money from customers if you can

It is a mistake to put all your hope for funding on investors. If there is a way for you to generate revenues from customers, do it. Start-ups with revenue streams look much better in the eyes of investors, and therefore can get better deals. Better yet, you might not even need an investor at all. The goal of tech start-ups should be to build a profitable long-lasting enterprise, not to get rich quick with someone else’s money.

Jay Jootar (www.drjaysayhi.com) is founder and CEO of Venture Catalyst (The VC Group), tech entrepreneur and investor, MIT graduate, and former telecom executive.

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